Censorship in Late Stalinist Classical Music

There are many aspects of the Soviet arts that I don’t understand. But one thing that vexes me is classical music. I get how the visual and textual arts take on Socialist Realist aesthetics—even though what Socialist Realism actually is hard to pin down. But what makes classical music Socialist Realist? And how is it subject to censorship like other art mediums? Also, what about ethnic sounding classical music? How are Soviet ethnic minority composers address the issue of “national in form, socialist in content” in classical music? Lots of questions and fewer answers.

Luckily, Leah Goldman lives in Pittsburgh and she sat down with me at my home to talk about her work on Soviet classical music, opera, and censorship in the late Stalin period. We also listen and she comments on the music too.


Leah Goldman is a Visiting Assistant Professor in European History at Washington & Jefferson College specializing in Soviet cultural history and music. She’s the author of several articles on Soviet classical music censorship and production. Her two most recent articles are “Nationally Informed: The Politics of National Minority Music during Late Stalinism,” published in the Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas and “Negotiating ‘Historical Truth’: Art, Authority, and Iurii Shaporin’s The Decembrists,” in Journal of Musicology.


Yuri Shaporin, “Scena, Arioso and Quartet: Your Words Inflame My Soul” The Decembrists.